by Mary Beth Bonacci
Well, my original plan was to write a follow-up to the vocation article – since it clearly sparked quite a bit of discussion, and there is a lot more to say about the subject than could be contained in a single article. But the death of John Paul II has changed most of my “original plans” of the past few weeks, so it only seems right that this plan should change as well. I promise we’ll pick up the vocation discussion again soon.
In the days since his death, I’ve seen a lot of interviews, and I’ve given a lot of interviews. (I was on Fox News Channel live at 3:30 a.m. one morning last week. Anyone catch it? Is anyone even awake at 3:30 a.m.?) People spoke about the Holy Father’s impact on youth, on women, on the geopolitical balance of power in the world. But no one talked about his impact on single adults.
I am the perfect person to do that, because it’s partly Pope John Paul II’s fault that I’m single in the first place.
How could my unmarried state possibly be his fault? Well, twenty years ago I was a senior in college. I was planning on a brief career in corporate communications, followed by marriage, children and a white picket fence. Then my school, the University of San Francisco, sponsored a four-part speaker series on chastity. Most of the talks weren’t just about chastity – they were about John Paul II’s “Theology of the Body.”
Something very powerful happened to me when I heard the Holy Father’s message. He spoke about love, about respect, about how respecting ourselves and respecting our sexuality leads to the love we often seek in sex – and don’t find.
Suddenly I wanted more than anything to spread that message. More than I wanted a corporate career, more than I wanted marriage and a family.
A year later, I received a call from a local pregnancy center. They were forming a speaker’s bureau to go into the local schools, and asked me if I would be one of the speakers. I was scared out of my brain, but I did it. I gave one talk, which led to five talks, which led to 25 talks, which led to today. Nineteen years after my first talk, and I still do no advertising. (Well, except for my little web site that’s rarely up to date!)
I didn’t give up the idea of marriage through all of this, but I didn’t really put it on the front burner, either. Face it -- the life of a Catholic speaker is hardly conducive to building a love life. I spent a lot of time on airplanes. I met a lot of teens, parents and priests.
What it boils down to is this: this work didn’t happen because I made it happen. This work happened to me, as did all the consequences which flow from that work. God made it happen, I didn’t. I honestly believe it happened because of the pontificate of John Paul II. Not just in the sense that I was inspired by his work. It was the grace of his pontificate – the grace that his personal sanctity brought into the world, which has initiated and fueled this work
I was just reading a collection of John Paul II’s talks to youth. In one talk, he points out that the apostles were not “volunteers.” Christ chose them. In the same way he chose me to do this work during the single phase of my life. And, in the same way, I suspect He has chosen you to do something, or impact the world in some way, while you are single.
John Paul II is in many ways a patron for the unmarried. This was a man who knew the experience of living without a family. His mother died when he was nine. He lost his only brother while he was still a teenager, and his father when he was in his early 20’s. And so he was alone. He maintained strong relationships with his childhood friends, building up a strong “communion of persons” which lasted throughout his life. He participated in their families’ lives – marrying them, baptizing their children, celebrating their milestones with them.
And even though he lived his life as a religious celibate, he never forgot the experience of being unmarried and without a family. In his apostolic letter to families, he wrote:
I wish to add a further word for a category of people whom, as a result of the actual circumstances in which they are living, and this often not through their own deliberate wish, I consider particularly close to the Heart of Christ and deserving of the affection and active solicitation of the Church and of pastors.
There exist in the world countless people who unfortunately cannot in any sense claim membership of what could be called in the proper sense a family . . . There are others who, for various reasons, have been left alone in the world. And yet for all of these people there exists a “good news of the family.”
For those who have no natural family the doors of the great family which is the Church – the Church which finds concrete expression in the diocesan and the parish family, in ecclesial basic communities and in movements of the apostolate – must be opened even wider. No one is without a family in this world: the Church is a home and family for everyone, especially those who “labor and are heavy laden. (Familiaris Consortio 85)
Did you catch that? He’s saying that he considers us “particularly close to the heart of Christ.” And he’s telling the Church, as in “the diocesan and the parish family” to acknowledge and embrace us!
I honestly believe that John Paul II understood us in a way very few others do. On earth, he was in a position to write a very important letter encouraging Church leaders to recognize us. In heaven, he’s in a position to hear our prayers, and to intercede for us with the God he served so faithfully.
I’ve decided he’s the patron of my work with single adults. I would highly recommend him as your patron, too.
Ask him to pray for you.
Mary Beth Bonacci, in addition to being a Catholic Match columnistis an internationally known speaker. In 1992 she addressed 10,000 teenagers in Monterrey, Mexico. In 1993 she spoke to 75,000 people at World Youth Day in Denver, Colorado. In 1996 she conducted a national seminar for single adults in Uganda, Africa. She does frequent radio and TV work, and has even made several appearances on MTV. In 1999, she spoke to 22,000 people at the TWA Dome during the Pope's visit to St. Louis. Mary Beth holds a bachelor's degree in Organizational Communication from the University of San Francisco, and a master's degree in Theology of Marriage and Family from the John Paul II Institute at Lateran University. Contact Mary Beth: email@example.com . Her web site is www.reallove.net .
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This Article Was Published On 13-Apr-2005